Atheism: Good Enough for Some Idiots

Atheism: Good Enough for Some Idiots January 22, 2016

Atheism Idiots

When I came across this meme, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. The image is labeled “ATHEISM: Good enough for these idiots” – yet it includes famous people who were Deists, agnostics, and a pantheist, as well as at least a couple of individuals whose beliefs are simply unclear.

I am happy to say that, as far as this meme is concerned, there was significant debunking thereof right in the atheism subreddit, a full seven years ago.

And yet it continues to circulate right down to the present day. And so it illustrates the issue that confronts us all, namely that one can address misinformation over and over and over again, and yet it can prove impossible to actually bring it to an end.


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  • People don’t agree on the meaning of “atheist”. For some folk, a Deist is a kind of atheist. For others, you are not an atheist unless you are militantly anti-theist.

    • Donkey Hotay ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Simple test question:

      Do you believe in god(s), yes or no?

      If no, then Atheist
      If yes, then Theist (Deist)

      ipso facto.

      • Ian

        Define ‘god’, for this purpose.

        • D’Artagnan

          C’mon! Who argues about that? God is “that which does not exist, but is said to exist by over 80% of the world’s pop.”.

          That should nail it down for you, surely? Otherwise we open a can of worms and throw away the lid 🙂

          • Ian

            Plenty could fit the definition of ‘80% think something exists, but it doesn’t’ – how about a soul, or clean food, or personal freedom.

            And what definition of God is there that 80% of the world population would agree on.

            Since the whole point of the objection is that ‘atheist’ is a term used to assert power. Either power over atheists (they aren’t believers – Christians were condemned in the Roman empire for their atheism) or power over non-atheists (like co-opting people who don’t recognize themselves as such, based on some nebulous definition). The definition is important. That you respond with a variation of ‘come on, we all know what we mean’ when clearly we don’t – is telling.

    • D’Artagnan

      I excuse Deists on the grounds that if you’re not at least a little bit of a cosmologist or quantum scientist, ignorance is almost a valid excuse.

  • Dachusblot

    “For the history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain

    • D’Artagnan

      Sam Harris knows this only too well. His expression of it is: It’s easy to make a mess, and hard to clean it up. Xians get enormous mileage from lying.

  • I can agree to a point, but we have to acknowledge a thing or three.

    Gnosticism is irrelevant to whether or not one is a theist. I’ll post the Venn again, if I have to, though I hope I don’t.

    Deism addresses the question of WAS, whereas theism tends to address IS. Any deist whose god is indistinguishable from no god whatsoever has a theism that is indistinguishable from atheism, as schizophrenic as that might sound.

    And any pantheist who has simply re-labeled “everything” as “god” without ascribing it any sort of supernatural entity is likewise not at odds with atheism. One can worship their tub or toilet if they’d like, but believing in plumbing does not a theist make…

    • Ian

      Or, put another way, anyone who doesn’t agree with my preferred definition of god is an atheist.

      Thus has it always been.

    • One thing we shouldn’t try to do is force people into labels that they didn’t accept for themselves. For instance, I think Carl Sagan’s agnosticism is probably indistinguishable from the viewpoint many atheists hold, but if he never claimed that label, I’m not going to call him one.

      Of course, labels are culturally situated, so that means that similar positions might result in different labels, but that happens within a culture as well, so we’re left with forcing people into labels (which I think violates a person’s right to self-determination) or with less defined boundaries between clusters of similar positions or identities. I’m more okay with the latter than the former.

      • People may self-identify as they wish.

        But if you’re not a theist, you’re an atheist, and we won’t make much progress toward eradicating the cultural stigma while people hide behind politically correct alternatives.

        Gay rights weren’t won by “confirmed bachelors”, but by loud, sometimes flamboyant pronouncements by unabashed homosexual activists. It’s tragic that Barney Frank was able to come out of the closet about his sexual nature but had to hide his theological skepticism.

        The day a person can say “I’m an atheist” as cavalierly as they might announce “I’m a Canadian” is one to look forward to, but it doesn’t get here any time soon if the rank and file of the apostates don’t step forward and demand to be acknowledged…

        • Ian

          I don’t know if you’ve been involved in gay activism, or whether it is just a rhetorical device for you, but your comment is ironic, because for me it reinforces the opposite point to the one you want to make, and marks your privilege.

          People in the LGBTQIA spectrum who don’t fit the ‘gay’ model are routinely criticised, abused and condemned for not being gay enough. So an asexual man, needs to just admit his gayness, or a bisexual person needs to make up their mind, someone who is homosexual but heteromantic is just playing straight privilege, a woman in an MMF triad is just a beard, etc, etc.

          You sound very much like the gay folks who try to make sexuality black and white: you’re either straight or you’re not. Folks who, for example, condemn people for not ‘owning’ their gayness, but would never actually listen when they say they aren’t gay. “Well, you basically are,” they’d say, “you’re just hiding behind a more politically correct label.”

          I’m super glad you’re out and proud. Try not to be such a jerk to people who aren’t just like you.

          [edit: deleted personal stuff]

          • Was my first sentence not: “People may self-identify as they wish.”?

            I insist upon nothing from my fellow infidels. If one must hide who they are to survive, by all means: do! It makes it no less sad that they must, though.

            Conversely, if you CAN come out– again, by all means: do! If I might plagiarize Dr. Horrible: “…the status is NOT quo…” I’d hate to think we’d need steal wonderflonium to enact social justice for apostates.

            “Try not to be such a jerk…”

            I ain’t makin’ any promises, my friend… 😉

          • Ian

            I ain’t makin’ any promises


            If one must hide who they are to survive


          • arcseconds

            I insist upon nothing from my fellow infidels. If one must hide who they are to survive, by all means: do! It makes it no less sad that they must, though.

            What if it’s that they don’t want to be associated with atheists or the atheist movement?

            There are lots of non-religious people who either refuse the label ‘atheist’ or feel the need to put caveats on it like “but not like Dawkins”, because they don’t want to be associated with dogmatic, obnoxious blowhards.

            Why, I was talking with someone just the other day who uses the term ‘non-theist’ for precisely this reason.

          • “What if it’s that they don’t want to be associated with atheists or the atheist movement?”

            Then they need not associate, but they’re still atheists.

            I don’t want to be associated with white supremacists, but that doesn’t make me any less of a Caucasian…

        • You’ve shifted the conversation now to pragmatic reasons for people to voluntarily adopt the label “atheist,” but that’s entirely separate from what I’m talking about. Also, you’re seriously preaching to the choir on that subject.

          • For the record, I’m on board with your premise:

            “One thing we shouldn’t try to do is force people into labels that they didn’t accept for themselves.”

            If I want to label myself Chinese, I may.

            But you’re well within your rights to point out my Franco-Erin ancestry as proof of the contrary, and subsequently call me a Caucasian…

          • arcseconds

            If you grew up in China, had Chinese citizenship, and Mandarin was your first language, then ‘Chinese’ is entirely correct.

          • And it isn’t clear to me that being of a particular ideological viewpoint with respect to religion – whether “atheist,” “Christian,” or something else – is like being or not being Caucasian, rather than like being or not being a white supremacist.

          • No need. I can still call myself Chinese, I’d just be either dishonest or delusional.

            You’d be right to call me aChinese, if we had that word.

            Likewise, somebody who is not a theist can deny it all they’d like, as is their prerogative. But they’re still an atheist…

        • Steven Waling

          I’m a “confirmed bachelor”. I’m not however gay. Not even bi in fact. Just not very successful at relationships. Sorry but your analogy doesn’t hold.

          • I didn’t invent the euphemism. It was used quite a bit in the 60s and 70s, particularly in the pop-culture media, to hint at one’s homosexuality without completely coming out…

            = = =

            “The term “confirmed bachelor” is sometimes used winkingly as a euphemism
            for this, although its broader definition is the original one and still

  • By the standards of their day, most of them were considered atheists. Disciples of Harris and Dawkins may not be justified in claiming them as their own, but I think that more moderate atheists can legitimately view them as their intellectual ancestors.

    • Christians were called “atheists” by the Romans. Mystics have been called “atheists.” The use of the same term doesn’t always demonstrate that the same viewpoint is being discussed. And while there is certainly a lineage that modern atheists can trace back to a variety of Deists, pantheists, and others, the meme gives not even the slightest hint of that complexity.

      • A want of complexity is often the shortcoming of memes.

  • Gerald Moore

    Why do believers find the term “atheist” so much more threatening than “agnostic,” “deism,” or “pantheism?” It’s as though they want atheism defined out of existence. Those terms often refer to ideas and world views identical to atheists or try to avoid the question about gods altogeather.

    Agnosticism is based on the notion that we can have no knowledge on the god question. Could someone who has no knowledge of something believe it exists, technically perhaps? I’m agnostic about the idea that the universe was created last Tuesday, but I don’t believe it did. People default to the agnostic position to avoid harsh treatment by Christians or religionists. Upon examination we cannot distinguish their beliefs from atheism.

    Pantheists employ a superfluous synonym for the word “universe” to avoid the atheist label. The deism of the founding father’s was justified almost entirely on the Argument from Design, which today has been virtually eliminated by science. Deism departs significantly enough from the religious theism of a personal god as to be the functional equivalent of atheism today.

    These terms are more definitional and defensive than theological. There should be a fallacy called Argument from Technicality. Calling these people theists in the conventional sense is absurd.

    • Those who are familiar with the Deist and pantheist traditions are not persuaded that they are simply versions of atheism or not significantly different. That is precisely the point – claiming that these views are all the same is an attempt to co-opt for one’s “team” people who are not part of it and either use language or hold viewpoints that atheists reject.

      • Gerald Moore

        I’m an agnostic pandeist I don’t know if the universe can be called a god that created itself. That should make you happy.

        Name some traditions of Pantheists and Deists. Perhaps I’ll want to partake.

        • Donkey Hotay ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          “I’m an agnostic pandeist I don’t know if the universe can be called a god that created itself.”

          So you’re actually a Cunning Linguist.

        • “I don’t know if the universe can be called a god that created itself.”

          I wasn’t the first whose eye this caught. I hope I’m not the last…

        • Hinduism of the advaita tradition is pantheistic, but not generally in exactly the same way that the tradition of Spinoza and Einstein was, for instance. Is that the kind of thing you are looking for?

          • Gerald Moore

            Good, they all sound like pretty godless activities.

  • D’Artagnan

    I recognize only Lincoln, Sagan, Einstein and Darwin (pretty sure that’s Darwin). I think I recognize Washington, not sure. I know the ones I recognize for sure are all atheists and don’t need confirmation on them.

    Who are the others? Is that Hemingway at top-left? What about next to the bespectacled person, is that a US president? John Adams? And who is that to the left of him? And further to the left?

    • Yes to Hemingway. Presumably the ones you didn’t recognize are Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain.

      • D’Artagnan

        Came back to say: Corn cob pipe and curly hair? Must be Mark Twain in his younger days.

        Thanks. And I can still pass the US Naturalization test, despite being a Brit in Canada who has never studied US history, so I’m not ashamed!

    • Erp

      Darwin never claimed to be an atheist and preferred ‘agnostic’, at least in later life.

  • John MacDonald

    Atheists seem unable to provide compelling evidence for their contention that it is more likely than not that divine entities DO NOT exist, just as theists seem unable to provide compelling evidence that it is more likely than not that divine entities DO exist. “Provisional Agnosticism” seems to be the most intellectually honest point of view until either atheists or theists start coming up with more compelling evidence.

    • Science_Buff

      There is no reason that atheists should feel any obligation to provide evidence that gods don’t exist. That isn’t a logical requirement. For most atheists, we look at the almost complete absence of evidence that supports the existence of such magical superbeings and believe the absence of evidence can, for this topic, be seen as evidence of absence. It’s true that there are some concepts of gods that wouldn’t provide any evidence, but why should we believe in them simply because we can’t eliminate them?

      There are individuals who will assert that it’s an absolute fact that no gods exist and they are atheists, but they don’t define atheism. They are actually a minority of atheists. For most of us, we don’t believe in gods for the same reasons we don’t believe in leprechauns or fire-breathing dragons. There’s no good evidence for their existence. Provide a little evidence and we’ll reconsider. Provide substantial evidence and we’ll change our minds. Until then, we are atheists.

      From my perspective, that is the most intellectually honest point of view.

    • Orion Jones

      Do you also find “Provisional Agnosticism” the most “intellectually honest point of view” on the existence of fairies, or do you stick your neck out and contend that “it is more likely than not that fairies DO NOT exist”?

    • Brad Feaker

      You do not really seem to get the whole ‘burden of proof’ concept do you?

      Atheism is not about knowledge and proof – simply belief.

  • Brad Feaker

    I find this one to be far more accurate…

  • Brad Feaker

    I find this meme more accurate….

    • arcseconds

      Is there a meme collecting together people who think publishing cherry-picked examples of people that allegedly share a label proves anything?

      It should be obvious that it would be child’s play to put together pictures of impressive famous Christians…

      • Brad Feaker

        Of course it would be child’s play. Memes, like the one above and the one central to the OP, are of no use in a serious discussion but can server as an opening for a more meaningful debate. They are fragments, conversation starters, provokers of deeper thought.

  • John MacDonald

    I just came across this brief article via Michael Shermer explaining why Stephen Hawking said in his last book that that there is no God. I wanted to share the article: . Personally, I’m a theoretical agnostic and a pragmatic atheist, so I think, ultimately, we don’t know, but I live my life as though there is no God(s).